The Han Chinese truck driver responsible for the killing of an ethnic Mongol herdsman in Inner Mongolia that sparked the worst riots in the region in 20 years was sentenced to death yesterday.
Li Lindong was given the death penalty for running over an ethnic Mongol herdsman named Mergen (Mongols often use just one name) on May 10. Mergen was there with several others blocking the road to protest coal trucks driving through causing pollution in their grasslands. According to official police reports, Li ran over the herder and dragged his body for 145m before Mergen died.
Mergen’s death prompted the already existing Han-Mongol ethnic tensions to bubble over and gave way to the largest protests in 20 years. All across the province, herders and students banded together to demand higher respect and protection for the Mongolian lifestyle. The speed of the sentence handed down no doubt underscored the government’s desire to placate the anger towards the Han Chinese majority.
Another driver Lu Xiangdong, who was sitting with Li in the truck at the time, was also convicted of homicide and given a life sentence. Two more–Wu Xiaowei and Li Minggang–were each given 3 year sentences for blocking police to let Li and Lu to escape.